Rules For Having Friends Of The Opposite Sex [While In A Relationship]

There was a point in time when most people assumed men and women could not be friends without the relationship escalating to something more than just platonic.

Movies like Harry Met Sally sparked a huge conversation back in the late 80’s about whether this is even possible or not.

Fast forward to 2015 and you’ll notice that coming into a long term relationship already having friends of the opposite sex is more of the norm than not.

Millennials aren’t focused on discussing whether or not men and women can be friends anymore. For our generation, the conversation has shifted to, “How can I enjoy and nurture my platonic opposite sex friendships while respecting my partner and the relationship we have together?

Interestingly, the more I research this topic, the more I realize there isn’t one set of rules that can be easily applied to every couple and every friendship.

However, there are some questions that couples should be asking each other to help find common ground on how to make their friendships work and I want to cover 4 of them with you today.

1. What are your boundaries?

Discussing and putting into place a basic set of ground rules sets everyone’s expectations so there are no surprises or disappointments down the road.

So, boundaries you might want to consider are things like, what topics of conversation are acceptable to have with your friend and what’s off the table?

For example, not revealing intimate details about your relationship or talking bad about your partner to them.

Also, how much time is reasonable to spend together and where? It wouldn’t be wise to spend a lot of time one-on-one with them, regardless of how often you’ve done it in the past. It puts you in an unnecessarily vulnerable position.

Don’t forget things like, what constitutes flirting? Ask around and you’ll get 10 different answers from 10 different people. Which makes this an even more important topic to get on the same page about.

2. What is your friend’s relationship with your partner?

When your friend only spends time with you, it leaves room for speculation from even the most secure partner and can fan the flames of insecurity and jealousy.

When your friend is a friend of the relationship, not only does it put your partner’s potential jealousy at ease because they get a chance to build a rapport with your friend and learn to trust them, but it makes clear to your friend the importance of your relationship in your life as well.

3. Where are your walls and windows?

The concept of Walls and Windows is used by Dr. Shirley Glass in her book, "Not Just Friends” to describe how intimate your relationship is with your partner.

The walls represent privacy and the windows represent openness within the relationship.

The problem is that the more you open up windows to your friend or the more closed off you are to your partner [or the more walls you put up], the more likely you are to end up in the territory of infidelity. Emotional or physical. That’s how it all starts.

The goal is to keep the walls up between you and your friends, and to keep the windows open between you and your partner.

So it’s critical to talk about how you'll make that happen in your relationship.

4. Are you being completely honest with yourself and each other regarding how you feel about the friendship?

One of the biggest lies I see people tell themselves all the time is, “I can handle this."

The fact is, many of us aren’t even aware of when a friendship is crossing the line from being healthy to dangerous until it’s too late. And even when we are aware, we’re just not as strong as we’d like to think we are to avoid the danger.

Sexual attraction is more powerful than most of us would like to admit. My advice is always to err on the side of safety.

Being honest with yourself about your feelings or even potential attraction to a friend can do more to strengthen your relationship than it will to hurt it.

Stepping back to tell your partner, “You know what? This friendship is doing more damage than good to our relationship, so let me distance myself or cut it off.” is the best way to handle it if it ever gets to that point.

Couples in strong relationships don’t wait until a compromising situation comes up to try to avoid it. They work together to protect what it is they’ve built together.

At the end of the day, being transparent, having your priorities straight and keeping it 100% honest is always the way to go in my book. But I want to hear from you guys.

Do you agree with this list? What would you add to it?

I know there’s a lot more to discuss with this topic and this is just the tip of the iceberg, so let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below.